Lack of support for law enforcement jeopardizes the maintenance of law and order in a society.
The recent mass murders of police officers in Dallas, Texas, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, are illustrative of that truism and should serve as warnings to people here in the Cayman Islands who encourage (or even tolerate) the anti-police mentality that festers among certain segments of our population.
In Dallas, a man shot and killed five police officers (wounding nine more officers and two civilians in the process) at the end of an otherwise-peaceful protest against unjustified killings of black people by police.
In Baton Rouge, a man shot and killed three police officers (wounding three other officers) less than a mile from police headquarters, about two weeks after a high-profile fatal shooting of a black man by Baton Rouge police.
The two mass murderers did not belong to the same defined organization or “movement,” and they did not profess identical reasons for their evil actions. The Dallas shooter wanted to kill white people, particularly white police officers. The Baton Rouge shooter was an anti-government extremist who had attempted to declare himself a “sovereign” and “indigenous” citizen, separate from the United States.
However, they did possess certain similarities — for example, both were young (under 30 years old), black U.S. military veterans who had served in war zones. And though there were distinctions, at root their motivation was the same: Hatred. For authority in general, and for the police in particular.
Their rationale does contain a twisted strand of logic. You see, the police are an obvious symbol of government, but not just a symbol. More than that, the police are the active means by which “the law” (which ultimately derives from the people, via the elected legislators) has any practical force.
That is why it is so dangerous — even if it is in reaction to individual police officers having committed profound acts of wrongdoing — to engage in coordinated attacks, even verbal ones, against the police as an institution.
Among some members of Cayman society, there is an attitude of disrespect and disregard for local police. This anti-law and, by proxy, anti–law enforcement mindset presents itself whenever a crime occurs in public, but no witnesses are willing to speak up.
An erosion of support for police leads to deteriorating conditions within a community, whether it’s on the scale of a neighborhood, city or country.
In such a situation, words do matter.
Here in Cayman, we lost our last police commissioner, David Baines, after he became the target of unfounded criticisms and unwarranted venom, including from some elected members. A primary goal of Mr. Baines’s critics was to replace him with a Caymanian police chief.
As we published in Monday’s Compass, the search is indeed on for ex-Commissioner Baines’s replacement, but the two Caymanians most qualified for that position — Acting Commissioner Anthony Ennis and soon-to-be Deputy Commissioner Kurt Walton — didn’t even apply for the top job.
Being police commissioner of the Cayman Islands should not be a thankless position, a target of scorn and derision from those who should know better. As a country, we need to respect our police and align ourselves with their goal of keeping these islands tranquil, safe and secure.